Roads of the Unknown
‘It’s getting too late.”
This had become a set of monotone words Joey had repeated over and over. It had gotten too late hours ago, but still, we waited. Four cars parked in the darkness, headlights crossing yellow swords; four men in black suits, ties hanging loose on top of white shirts. We share quick glances, counting the missing spot, the missing fifth, filling it with the non-present figure of another in black suit and weary face. This was due to be the last annual meeting before we separate, retire from this job; 17 years of service had done their fair share of damage and tonight we could all go back home, go back to being us. But he’s not here. This year there’s an empty space and an empty voice. He’s out of reach. And we’re not going anywhere. Not for a very long time.
1 midnight earlier
He leaned against the lamppost and tried to remember what city he was in.
It was one of those nights again when his brain was mash and his breath stank of overslept alcohol. Lately there were too many such nights and too many unknown cities to which lights or dim mornings he had woken up to. He was used to the feeling of being lost and blank, of being poison day and night, dragging weary body through weeks of ignorance. Shit, those were years, not weeks.
He grabbed an empty glass and filled it with water from the bathroom. That half-washed the taste in his mouth.
The suitcase still lied under the bed. He pulled it out, scanning the code on the front side, making sure it’s sealed.
2 hours until delivery.
He put his rugged jacket on. A glimpse of himself called from the smudged mirror. He saw four more men staring back; one more day till they all break free. One more day and he could have beaches and cocktails. He could have sun and stars and trips to that lake he saw on a postcard in Canada.
He washed his face and slicked his hair. At the end of the dead hallway of the unknown hotel he pushed open a door that wasn’t there. He stepped in a back alley two cities and some 200 miles away. Cotton candy music erupted next to him. “Cotton candy” to him was that tune which plays in all those half-dead bars; 20 different songs sounding the same, replaying until the morning brings sickness and the night releases the sober to dive again. Somewhere beyond the gritty door with stickers and a spastic red “EXIT” awaited the closing deal.
He walked through the bar, suitcase heavy in his hand, a sick wave of local sweatiness showering him fully. The “WC” door in the far left had the bright red coloring that marked an open portal to another universe. As he approached he felt the universe rubbing into this one. A certain odor was present in the air, different ray of colors reflected on the glasses carried by the waitresses. It was even marked on each person. Little did they know, the portal affected them more or less – tiny particles of the opposite universe leaked out, slipping in their brains, making him almost transparent to their perception. Other than that he was too fucked up from crossing back and forth to exist on his own.
He slid like a ghost past them and through the door, which beamed him up, bathing him in red. He closed his eyes from the pain.
The door closed shut. The other side stank worst then a rat’s pit.
Squinted eyes, bright yellow irises, foreign whispers, mechanical squeeks, motorcycle roars, glasses shattering, too bright lights, too loud music, high heels on the bar, high heels on the floor. He hated it all. It was the worst mixture of the human world and this wormhole that gathered scum from all sides. Alien and whatnot. He reached for his watch. The time eating gap had left him with ten minutes until the meeting.
‘D’ya want somethin’…sugar?’
He followed the curves her long tongue demonstrated with a gum. The seductive act felt wrong as it transpired. Maybe it could seem more appropriate and accommodating later.
‘Just the backroom pass Jezz. And maybe two shots for when I get out.’
The green-eyed barmaid smirked and pushed over a card. It had his ugly picture on it.
‘See you later suit-and-tie.’
He held on to the suitcase moving through the crowd. Backroom door. Backrooms were scary because they contained asocial people with psychotic disorders and too much money for too much no good. Like the countenance of the suitcase.
‘Right on the dot. That’s Mr. Lachlan for you.’
With a pearly skinned beauty on his lap, number 2 in the black market business, Rosarie slapped a big grin on his face, complimenting the man in plain suit to his fellow crime doers.
Lachlan laid the suitcase on the desk and offered the lock-removal code that matched the one Rosarie had previously received from the seller. He was a ruthless sun of a bitch and Lachlan knew to keep cool, taking all the jokes and the giggles without a blink. He was just a delivery boy.
Rosarie hesitated before clicking it open. Then curiosity and cruelty took place and his sharp features became even more sharpened. Hermetic hood raised open. His face remained still for a moment. His lips muttered words, and it took Lachlan an eternity to comprehend what was said. “What the fuck is this?”
The suitcase was turned around in a shift move and Lochlan was scared to bring his glance down and witness his downfall.
‘Let me tell you something. It’s my own proverb, my most precious of virtues. I enjoy simplicity. I bless it. And as always that’s what I expect from deals like this. Make it easy for me and hard for you. I pay you to do the job. End of. Simple, clean. But when someone tries to play around with me and disturb my simplicity therefore my peace, I get really, really pissed off Lachlan. Now, I neither have my money, nor my toy. Nor my patience.”
Lachlan dared himself and shot a look at the countenance. He thought to laugh, but the urge died the instant it appeared and he stared at the white piece of paper with a crimson kiss on it, knowing he would never get to visit that lake on a Canadian postcard. Nor will four other men.
Rosarie might of already killed him, but Lachlan felt distant, he felt numb. Flashbacks invaded him; hard job, merciless job, roads without signs, nights without days. One night more vivid then the others in one of those cities he never remembers the name of. Many uncertainties, many unknowns. This universe then that, very noir and then all shiny like Vegas. Simplicity. His own design of things. And all of a sudden she, leaning towards him, martini on her lips. Interruption. Change. A side-attraction. Pleasure. One memoryless night. How could have he forgotten? How, how, how?
Rosarie looked mad. They all looked mad; rabid dogs with steel in their nasty paws.